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In a tightly-contested, hard-hitting game between two teams at the bottom of the CCHA standings, the Bowling Green Falcons knocked off the Western Michigan Broncos, 3-2, thanks to a timely late third-period goal by freshman Jordan Samuels-Thomas.
While Samuels-Thomas was the hero, giving the Falcons the game-winner at 14:32 of the final stanza, it was sophomore center Cameron Sinclair that started the play, picking the pocket of a Broncos’ defenseman at neutral ice, and feeding Samuels-Thomas in the Broncos’ zone. He skated in on Western Michigan goaltender Riley Gill and backhanded the puck past the senior for his ninth tally of the season.
“Both teams were on a change,” explained Samuels-Thomas. “Cameron got a turnover on the blue[line]. I was sitting at the far blue line. He saw me. I caught the puck and had a pretty clear breakaway. I got a little slash at the end, but I was able to get it over the goalie.”
With the victory, the 11th-place Falcons increase their point total over the last-place Broncos to five.
“To get five points on any weekend, especially when you’ve been on the road so long, it feels good to leave this weekend with five of six points,” said Bowling Green coach Dennis Williams.
“This was a weekend where we needed to turn a corner,” said Samuels-Thomas. “We’ve got a part of the schedule coming up with a lot of really good teams, so this was definitely a step in the right direction.
For the second night in a row, the power play unit of the Falcons was a key component to success. Bowling Green notched two goals with the man advantage in six tries. After a pair of weekends that saw the Falcons’ power play score at an anemic pace, the BG icers totaled four tallies with the man-advantage on this weekend.
“We talked about just shooting pucks,” said Williams. “I think we had 25 shots on the power play. We were moving out there with confidence and they were ready to score goals.”
The Falcons’ penalty kill also stepped up on the weekend, killing off 11 of Western Michigan’s 12 chances with the man advantage, including holding the Broncos to 0-for-six totals tonight.
“We stressed being aggressive as much as we can,” explained Williams. “We did a real good job of communicating. When [Western] would get the puck up top and move it around, we did a real good job with our switches. We made a lot smarter plays dumping the puck and making sure we were getting it deep enough.”
Both goaltenders played well in the contest. Gill, who again made a handful of saves that bordered on super-human, ended the night with 34 saves. His counterpart, Nick Eno, stopped 14 of the shots he faced on the evening.
The teams traded goals in the opening period to open the scoring.
The Falcons jumped out to a 1-0 lead at 9:32 of the opening period on a power-play goal. Senior center James Perkin fired a shot wide of the goal that caromed off the boards and back out in front of the crease. James McIntosh was there to bang it home for his first collegiate goal.
Kyle O’Kane evened the score at 12:43 with a power play goal of his own. The St. Louis, Mich. sophomore stripped the puck from a Bowling Green player in the BG zone, then skated into the left circle and snapped a wrister over the glove of Nick Eno and under the crossbar for his first goal of the year.
The Falcons picked up their second power-play goal of the night at 5:51 of the second period. Standing near the crease, Josh Boyd found the puck on his stick after a scramble and chipped it in for his fifth goal of the year. McIntosh and Ian Ruel added the assists.
Western Michigan knotted the game at two just over a minute later. Alternate captain Chris Clackson notched his sixth goal of the year, wrapping one around the right post to tie the game. Ian Slater assisted.
Bowling Green will take next weekend off before playing in a Tuesday-Thursday home-and-home tilt against the Michigan Wolverines on February 2 and 4.
Western Michigan will head to Oxford, Ohio next weekend to take on the No. 2 Miami RedHawks at Steve Cady Arena.